I just got back from TAGT (Texas Association for Gifted and Talented) Conference in Fort Worth. I attend/present at this conference every year and I always learn so much. This year was a little different as I went with the intention of networking and really getting as much as I could out the two days that I was there.
Wednesday night was the Welcome Reception and I had the pleasure of meeting one of my Twitter buddies, Ginger Lewman (@gingerlewman). It's always such a surreal experience to meet these people that you've followed and learned from online face to face. We took a quick selfie, chatted a bit, and then I headed out to get some rest for a full day on Thursday.
The next morning started with a wonderful keynote from Nikhil Goyal (@nikhilgoya_l). His keynote addressed today's school system and the fact that it has not changed much over time. He pointed out that we subject kids to conditions in school every day that we would not tolerate as adults. He encouraged teachers to offer choice and real experiences in their classrooms. Nikhil suggested that we need to think differently about intelligence as a society. Students should be encouraged to be curious and creative. He shared this image during his presentation and asked if this is how we are making our students feel every day when they are at school.
After this session, I attended Ginger Lewman's session on gamification and badges. I had some great discussions with some of the other educators sitting close by as we shared our questions and thoughts about motivating students in our classrooms. Having an opportunity to discuss my struggles/concerns with my peers gave me an opportunity to hear different perspectives. I left that session with a lot going on in my head and questions about how I could give badges more significance in my own classroom.
And then it was my turn. I shared the technology that I use in my classroom and encouraged teachers to engage students in meaningful learning. After the session, I was able to talk with several educators that are so ready for change. They want to try things in their classrooms but just do not know where to start. Some explained that their district just isn't ready for change and they are doing the best that they can. I was inspired as I listened to their desire to try new things and willingness to implement technology to provide meaningful experiences for their students.
My colleague, Brenda Davis (@brenkaydavis), shared The Six Thinking Hats strategy in her session. She challenged educators to use this technique to give students an opportunity to think differently. In explaining the hats, she gave teachers an opportunity to use the technique themselves. In doing so, they were able to see the value in looking at a problem from many different perspectives. Many of them shared how they were using these hats to challenge their students and engage them in different ways.
That evening, we enjoyed laughs and great conversation over dinner with Ginger. It was so fun to be able to ask questions, share our thoughts, and get to know each other. She introduced us to Uber (even though I was scared to death) and shared her story with us. In listening to all Ginger had to share, I was so inspired by her willingness to think differently about education. I love that she asks the hard questions and encourages other educators to do the same. By the end of the evening, I knew we had a begun a wonderful friendship and I look forward to many more conversations with Ginger as our paths cross in the future.
Friday morning, we had the pleasure of listening to another keynote by Scott Barry Kaufman (@sbkaufman) who wrote Ungifted. He was so much fun and very engaging! His story is so inspiring and his presentation was enlightening. In sharing his story, he explained that we sometimes miss seeing the whole child because we get so focused on specific labels.
He challenged us to help kids fall in love with the future image of themselves. In closing, he told us about The Future Project which is an organization that provides "dream directors" to help students make their dreams come true. I was so intrigued by this idea and still can't help but want to find out more about the initiative and the specifics of dream directors. What a great job description!
As I sit here this evening reflecting on all that I learned and the connections that I made this year at TAGT, I can't help but be thankful for the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in education and look forward to TAGT 2015 in San Antonio.